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Cops Get Warrant to Unlock Texas Shooter's Apple iPhone

By George Khoury, Esq. on November 27, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

In the wake of the recent tragedy in Sutherland Springs, Texas, what usually unfolds into a vehement battle between tech-giant and law enforcement over privacy rights, ended in a rather unexpectedly peaceful manner. Investigators of the mass shooting found a blood spattered iPhone in the shooter's vehicle and promptly got a warrant to search it. Surprisingly, they also got an offer of assistance from Apple.

Initially, it seemed as though law enforcement needed assistance to get into the locked device, however that has not been the case. Despite the fact that the tech giant seemed willing to cooperate with authorities, it reportedly has not been contacted.

Hacking Justice

While typically a deceased individual no longer has a Fourth Amendment privacy interest, when it comes to getting data off a smartphone, the tech companies themselves tend to get a little cagey. There's a vested interest for tech companies to show consumers that their devices will be safe from even police intrusions. But, after the Sutherland Springs shooting, interestingly, in what might signal a changing of the times, law enforcement didn't seem to need the help.

Notably, in another recent case, the FBI obtained a court ordering Apple to help them unlock a phone, but ended up withdrawing that order as it was no longer necessary. And while it might be nice to think that our news feeds will be less filled with disputes between cops and tech giants, this probably means that law enforcement is catching up, technologically.

Crime in the Cloud

As noted by tech commentators, the warrant not only seeks the information on the device, but also the info stored in the cloud accessible from the device. For law enforcement, getting access to a person's cloud could prove rather beneficial as messages, photographs, and more can be stored there, not to mention a phone's entire backup file.

Interestingly, along with the in the shooter's vehicle, a second old-style cell phone was found as well. A warrant to obtain the information relating to that phone was also obtained.

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